Picture of me with the A.W. Oakes customer of the year award from Komatsu
Picture of Matt with the "Brand Management – Customer of the Year" Award from Komatsu

Matt Krok, Project Manager of Survey/Staking at A.W. Oakes & Son, Inc. has a remarkable career path that reflects the company's commitment to innovation and its people. In this blog post, Matt shares his experiences, the most memorable projects he's worked on, and his insights into the future of surveying technology.

Finding a Home at A.W. Oakes

Matt's journey at A.W. Oakes began through a recommendation from a project manager who recognized Matt's skills. Matt emphasizes the importance of taking opportunities to connect, a value he found echoed at A.W. Oakes during his initial meeting with Dan Oakes, the company president at the time. Matt was impressed by the company's transparency and honesty, values that resonated with him.

Since joining A.W. Oakes in 2016, Matt's role has evolved significantly. He started as one of two surveyors and has seen the team grow to include four surveyors and two office staff. This growth reflects Dan Oakes' belief in Matt's leadership and the company's commitment to staying at the forefront of surveying technology.

Picture of me with my sons taken at the Komatsu Mining open house at the Komatsu South Harbor Campus
Picture of Matt with his sons taken at the Komatsu Mining open house at the Komatsu South Harbor Campus

Memorable Projects and Witnessing Change

One of Matt's most memorable projects was the Komatsu mining company development in  Milwaukee. Matt recalls the project's transformation from a gravel parking lot to a fully-functioning facility. He highlights the collaborative nature of the project, working closely with the general contractor and even meeting with a representative from Japan to ensure the client's technology was implemented correctly. A.W. Oakes’ continued investment and success on the project contributed to being honored with the "Brand Management – Customer of the Year" award from Komatsu in 2022.

Matt was involved with another unique project requiring a drone flight for We Energies near an airport. Securing FAA clearance for the flight demanded meticulous planning and accurate information. Matt collaborated with the airport to establish a safe flight path that met all regulatory requirements.

Matt has witnessed significant changes in surveying technology during his time at A.W. Oakes. The introduction of drones has revolutionized the way surveying projects are approached. Matt himself is a certified drone pilot, and A.W. Oakes has embraced this technology, establishing a dedicated drone department in 2019. Stringless paving technology is another innovation that Matt highlights, praising its efficiency and safety benefits.

A.W. Oakes utilizes a wide range of surveying equipment, from basic tools like tape measures and rulers to advanced technology like drones and total stations. Matt emphasizes the importance of choosing the right technology for each project.

The adoption of drones and photogrammetry has significantly transformed how Matt's team approaches projects. These technologies allow for more efficient verification of accuracy and planning, with a shift towards a more managerial role for surveyors. However, Matt acknowledges the importance of not neglecting foundational skills. He emphasizes that a strong understanding of traditional surveying methods remains essential, as technology can sometimes fail.

Picture of the mining shovel and haul truck outside the Komatsu South Harbor Campus
Picture of the mining shovel and haul truck outside the Komatsu South Harbor Campus

Communication and Collaboration: Keys to Success

When it comes to project planning, Matt underscores the importance of clear communication between office staff, field surveyors, and project managers. Effective communication ensures everyone is on the same page regarding project goals, timelines, and deliverables. Regular team reviews are also crucial for sharing successes, learning from challenges, and continuously improving processes.

Collaboration with other departments at A.W. Oakes, such as engineering and construction, is another critical aspect of ensuring seamless project flow. Matt highlights the importance of open communication channels, whether it's face-to-face interaction, emails, phone calls, or text messages. He emphasizes that every team member's voice should be heard, as even seemingly minor issues can have significant consequences in the construction environment.

Safety is paramount for Matt and the entire A.W. Oakes team. He prioritizes creating a safe work environment and ensures everyone receives proper training. The company also leverages technology to enhance safety, with drones minimizing risk in data collection tasks.

Picture of the mining shovel and haul truck outside the Komatsu South Harbor Campus
Picture of the CNH (Case-New Holland) test track on the lakefront of Racine – a fun project Matt remembers fondly

Building a Successful Team

Matt's leadership style is centered around open communication and collaboration. He fosters a team environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing ideas and asking questions. This collaborative spirit is evident in the team's growth from just two surveyors to a well-rounded team of four surveyors and two office staff. Matt emphasizes the importance of recognizing and rewarding individual contributions, which helps to keep team members motivated and engaged.

A Culture of Continuous Learning

A.W. Oakes prioritizes continuous learning and development for its employees. The company encourages surveyors to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and provides opportunities for training and certification. This commitment to professional development ensures that the A.W. Oakes’ surveying team remains at the forefront of the industry.

When asked about his future outlook on surveying technology, Matt expresses excitement about the potential of automation. He envisions unmanned vehicles, remote-controlled bulldozers, and virtual reality playing an increasingly prominent role in construction. While these advancements may alter the nature of some jobs, Matt believes they will ultimately create new opportunities within the industry.

Advice for Aspiring Surveyors and Project Managers

For those interested in a career in surveying or project management, Matt recommends exploring relevant coursework offered by high schools and technical colleges. He emphasizes the value of AutoCAD and other software programs and suggests gaining experience as an apprentice under a qualified surveyor. Most importantly, Matt highlights the importance of a willingness to learn and listen – qualities that have been instrumental in his construction journey.

Matt's story exemplifies A.W. Oakes’ dedication to its employees and its commitment to innovation. The company's investment in technology, combined with its focus on building a skilled and motivated workforce, positions it for continued success in the ever-evolving construction industry. Matt's passion for surveying and his dedication to his team are a true asset to A.W. Oakes.

If you're interested in a career in surveying or project management at A.W. Oakes & Son, Inc. visit our careers page to explore current opportunities.

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